There was once a time where cruises were booked merely because they represented a convenient way to see a particular destination. Today, destination is just one of the reasons to choose to cruise the oceans or rivers of the world as more and more lines cater to a diverse array of hobbies, interests, and cultural offerings.
The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) exemplifies that thinking in spades. It believes that the rivers of America – which the line’s classic sternwheeler ships sail – are inexorably linked with music. And to that end, the company has crafted more music-themed river cruises that journey through the American heartland than almost any other company.
In many ways, music-themed river cruises make perfect sense. AQSC’s ships are designed to evoke memories of the pioneer spirit in the United States, when paddlewheelers thundered down the Mississippi and coastal steamers left the protected confines of the Columbia River for the unknown vastness of the Pacific Ocean, bound for Alaska and the Klondike as men from around the world sought their fortunes in the Gold Rush.
The Mississippi is home to AQSC’s grand dame, the American Queen. Soon, it will also be home to the all-suite American Duchess, which sets sail later this year. And both vessels will play a starring role in some of the company’s most popular music-themed river cruises, from the sounds of Dixieland Jazz to the Delta Blues and the best of the 1950’s and 1960’s.
It is these 1950’s and 1960’s themed river cruises that are among the most numerous, with four departures this year and three offered next year. These special “1950’s and 1960’s Remembered” voyages ply the Mississippi River and range between five and nine days in length. AQSC knows its target audience, and knows it well: it is impossible to not get sucked into the classic atmosphere aboard these musically-themed river cruises that highlight the sounds of early Rock and Roll and other musical genres like doo-wop, R&B, and the American Bandstand-influenced tunes that formed the backbone of the Baby Boomer generation.
Then, there is the Music of America: eight special voyages throughout 2017 and 2018 that ply the Mississippi while paying tribute to the diverse musical stylings that have developed in the United States. Given that these itineraries sail between Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans, it should come as no surprise to find Dixieland jazz, the Delta Blues and country music featured side-by-side on these entertaining and historic river cruises.
These Music of America river cruises all run nine days in length, and depart between March of this year and March of 2018, and all feature extensive onboard musical entertainment and lectures dedicated to the rich cultural history of the Mississippi and its impact on the sounds of American music. Much of this music owes its roots to the Mississippi Delta; an area that has been recognized as “The Most Southern Place on Earth” thanks to its unique, sometimes complicated role as the epicenter of the American Heartland.
Some of the line’s most popular sailings are arguably its Big Band voyages that operate twice-yearly aboard the American Queen. Celebrating the amazing orchestral sounds of the 1930’s and 1940’s, the American Queen Ensemble is joined by the 13-piece “Great American Swing Band” as they play the hits that kept folks dancing through a Great Depression and the Second World War.
This year, AQSC’s Big Band voyages sail roundtrip from New Orleans aboard the American Queen, with the next nine-day departures on March 5, 2017. Next year, Big Band returns to the American Queen on a nine-day sailing from New Orleans on February 25, 2018; and on a summertime sailing from Pittsburgh to Louisville, Kentucky that sails on July 15, 2018.
Other unique musical voyages include the Chicago Blues Cruise from Ottawa (Chicago) to St. Louis on August 20, 2017; the Musical Heritage of the Delta voyage from New Orleans to Memphis on November 26, 2017; and the Southern Musical Heritage cruise that departs in November of 2018 on a voyage from Memphis to New Orleans.
The Mississippi River is one of the most historically-significant and diverse areas of the United States. It offers something for everyone, from history buffs to arts and culture aficionados. Just as there are history, wine, art, and cultural appreciation themed voyages, these musically-themed river cruises along the Mississippi are designed as much to delight as they are to educate.
If you’ve never been, AQSC’s music theme cruises are a great way to see the waterways of America. And if you have already sailed the Mississippi for yourself, they make a great excuse to come back.